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Uber, Careem drivers back on job as Egypt moves to regulate industry

After their operations were suspended by a Cairo court, another put Uber and Careem back on Egyptian streets while the parliament drafts legislation to regulate ride-share companies.

After more than three years of unregulated work since ride-share companies Uber and Careem launched in Egypt in 2014, car owners and drivers working with these services are anticipating a final law to regulate the industry.

On April 7, the Cairo Court of Urgent Matters quashed an administrative court ruling issued in March to suspend the two companies. According to lawyer Ahmed Samir, the last ruling by the administrative court against Uber and Careem was a call for the government to get to work on their regularization.

In March, a Cairo administrative court issued a ruling calling for the companies behind ride-sharing apps to stop their services. The government response was quick. On March 29, the Egyptian parliament’s transportation committee approved some articles of the draft bill regulating the operation of ride-sharing apps.

George Magdy works for the ride-share service Uber. He told Al-Monitor, “I am always under pressure because I face citations from the traffic police at any time.”

Samir Mohamed, a driver with Careem, said, “It will be much better than working in unregulated conditions and fearing fines for violations.” He's always watching for news reports that the service has been banned and said that he would have no problem with abiding by new regulations.

“The unrest started when regular taxi drivers organized several marches in protest against Uber and Careem since 2016, urging the government to shut them down,” Mohamed told Al-Monitor. “Drivers for ride-sharing apps do not pay taxes for their income or for their cars, while the traditional taxi drivers do.”

He added, “White taxi drivers are also saying that those apps are stealing their customers.”

Many jobless youths who have invested their time or even bought new cars they need to pay off with the job are waiting for the industry to stabilize.

Magdy started his business with Uber after he lost his job in the tourism sector, which took a hard hit in the wake of the Egyptian revolution in 2011.

The two companies have offered opportunities for many jobless Egyptians. Rana Ghanem, a communications manager for Careem, told Al-Monitor that the company has invested over $30 million in 14 Egyptian cities, and if the government stabilizes the industry it will encourage her company to invest more.

Ghanem said, “The Careem fleet has over 100,000 [drivers], of which more than 100 are women. The $30 million investments covered infrastructure and call centers and brought affordable on-demand transportation services to 14 cities across Egypt. Careem is a firm believer that startup power can shape the Egyptian economy. Careem has a clear mission to support startups and entrepreneurs, which can be seen through its participation in local, national and university events such as Rise Up summit, Egypreneur and road safety initiatives.”

She told Al-Monitor that Careem is working closely with the government, saying, “Discussions started two years ago to come up with suitable legislation to address the current situation.”

Adel Mahany, head of the Egyptian Business Association's transportation committee, said it is time to protect the rights of all parties — the government, businesses and the drivers — under one system.

Mahany said that the final draft of the law would be discussed in the coming parliament meetings. He added, “Both the parliament and civil society are keen to define the legal rights of the ride-sharing companies and their associates so as to see to a fair policy for all parties.”

Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr said in a press statement that the coming legislation will also encourage Egyptian companies to make use of the transportation services, which will bring more job opportunities to Egyptian youths.

According to Seham Mokhtar, a regular user of ride-sharing apps, their legalization is very important to all users who depend on them on a daily basis.

Ahmed Ibrahim, a driver for Careem, told Al-Monitor that many youths want to start a business in the ride-share sector due to high demand for the service. Legalization of these companies will remove substantial fear and uncertainty that may hold them back.

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